When her husband died suddenly, Hannah Richell was determined to treasure their past and embrace the future with their children.
There is a glass jar in our house stuffed with folded pieces of paper. If a stranger were to open it and read the handwritten slips inside, they might find themselves a little baffled. ‘The loveliest green eyes that crinkled at the corners when he smiled.’ ‘Learning to play guitar and driving us crazy playing the same notes over and over again.’ ‘Returning from early morning runs around the bay with smoothies for the kids.’ ‘Singing Frozen songs at the top of his voice in the car.’ ‘He made the best Yorkshire puddings.’ ‘He loved us… and we loved him.’
It is heartbreaking to reduce the love of your life and the father of your children to fragments of memories scrawled onto pieces of paper. But when my husband Matt died suddenly in 2014, the very notion of memory became all-important to us as a family.
The children were just three and six when Matt was killed in a surfing accident at Tamarama beach near Sydney. They were faced at a young age with the unimaginably hard lesson that life is fragile and impermanent. On one seemingly ordinary day, they learnt that one of the people you love most in the world can walk out of the door and never return.
I knew, even in the midst of acute shock and pain, that one of my biggest fears was that there might come a time when the kids would no longer remember Matt. This brilliant man, who we were lucky enough to share our days with, would over time fade for them –become relegated to the shadowy past. I felt a responsibility to help protect their memories and to honour our history together.
It was a close friend who told me about memory jars. She explained how they could offer a safe way for grieving children to access happy memories and help the broken-hearted start conversations about their lost loved one.
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September 24, 2018